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Pakistan’s “Swing State”

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South Punjab has become a “swing state” in Pakistan. Fortunes and misfortunes alike can be swayed by where the region chooses to place allegiance.

Malik Asim Dogar Profile Malik Asim Dogar

In the 2018 general elections, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was able to form a government in the center and in Punjab when South Punjab decided to swing its way.

One of the major reasons for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N)’s failure in the region was the absolute abandonment of the area by Shehbaz Sharif’s administration. As compared to the development work that was done in Lahore and Central Punjab, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan and Bahawalpur were sidelined.

And so, a South Punjab faction was created just a month before the general elections out of the electables that belong to Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and PML-N. Some of the names now waxing eloquent about the injustices wrought in the region had earlier been elected on Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) tickets too. Most of the men in the faction were feudals, gaddi-nasheens or land holders. Under the right circumstances, these politicians have been most beneficial for whomever Lady Luck is going to bestow her smile upon.

As per our constitution, Punjab is one province. But that is where the legalities end. In the minds of the people of Punjab, the south is a distinctly separate region. South Punjabis would be delighted if they get recognized as Seraiki Province. But at this point they will make do with just a title carrying just their geographic location, just as long as their dream is fulfilled.

The PTI infamously promised that within the first 100 days of the party taking charge in the capital, it will begin proceedings to carve out a South Punjab province. For one year, the issue remained dead. Once the media started discussing the issue, a South Punjab Secretariat was created. It remained toothless with Lahore still taking all the decisions pertaining to the southern districts.  An administrative attempt not backed up by political will was bound to crash. Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, described with much fanfare as a man who belonged to a backward area, decided that he did not want to be the administrator of just Central Punjab. And so the notification became a mere piece of paper.

Buzdar has said that South Punjab remains high on his agenda. He asks that no heed be paid to the propaganda of naysayers. One is tempted to ask him if the notification was suspended on the advice of the naysayers. Whatever the political reasons behind, the fact remains that the South Punjab issue is going to be raised once more. Once again, the main characters will be the politicians who have spent time in the stables of all political parties. South Punjab itself will remain woefully underdeveloped and ignored. Relentless poverty forces people to leave their homes and make their way towards bigger cities. Universities churn out graduates who will get no jobs. Vocational institutes and few and far in between. Industrial infrastructure is absent. The few agricultural reforms that were adopted will be dropped after the suspension of the notification.

PTI will have to pay heavy political costs for taking this decision. Delusioned by PPP and PML-N, the voters of South Punjab had looked towards PTI in the hope of getting their own province and equal development opportunities. After 31 months in power, Imran Khan has been unable to fulfill even a single electoral promise made to the entire country. Far from getting rid of IMF, we are now about to hand over State Bank of Pakistan to them. Instead of recovering looted wealth from former rulers, the PTI went into seat adjustment with them in the senate elections. If all failures are mentioned here, we may run out of space.

PPP has been trying to return to its past strength in Punjab since eight years now. It tried to bring PML-Q into power with the help of PML-N. But for Nawaz Sharif’s party, sharing government with a competent Chief Minister was a worse option than sitting in the opposition with a very incompetent one.

But now, PPP must be hoping anew for elusive success in the province. It has started reforming party structure and reconnecting with the central players of the area. It is true that the people of South Punjab have a soft corner for PPP. Meanwhile, powerful circles are once again ready to use the area as a swing state. Political heavyweights may be handed over to PPP if PDM is truly finished.

If that does happen, then PPP’s road to Islamabad and Lahore may well be obstacle free.

The writer tweets at @asimdogar76

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Pakistan

SC dismisses govt’s contempt of court plea against Imran Khan

The government filed the plea against PTI this morning

Published by Siddra Sumreen

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Islamabad: The Supreme Court of Pakistan has refused to take contempt of court action against PTI Chairman Imran Khan for violating the apex court’s orders during ‘Azadi March’.

The government filed the plea this morning after the PTI openly defied the apex court’s directives, announcing to hold a rally at D-Chowk in Islamabad’s prohibited Red Zone.

The SC formed a five-member larger bench, headed by Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, to hear the contempt of court plea At the outset of the hearing, Attorney-General of Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf read out the SC verdict before the court.

The court dismissed a petition filed by the federal government, saying that activists were not responsible as they act on the directives of party leadership. It also ordered the release of 20 activists who were booked for rioting and violence.

However, following the reports of violence and mayhem during the protest brought before the Court, the Court has now decided to issue a comprehensive order after pondering over the matter keeping in view the nature of assembly and association so that it can serve as a guideline to the practice of constitutional rights in future.

The Court observed that fundamental rights of assembly, association, and movement are not unlimited, but there are certain limits to them.     

At the outset of the hearing today, Attorney-General of Pakistan, Ashtar Ausaf Ali presented his submissions before the Court pointing out the violations of the Court's order by PTI.

He also mentioned before the court the breach of allowed venue and entering the D-Chowk by PTI workers, burning public property and trees, injuring the security forces personnel, and creating turmoil in the federal capital.

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Pakistan Navy seizes huge cache of drugs in Arabian Sea raid

Pakistan Navy is vigilant to counter any illegal activity and safeguard its maritime borders.

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Karachi: Pakistan Navy during action in the Arabian Sea foiled a bid to smuggle narcotics worth millions of dollars.

According to PN’s spokesperson, Pakistan Navy Ship DEHSHAT in collaboration with PN air units seized approximately 4500 Kilograms of drugs at the North Arabian Sea. While undertaking maritime security operations, PNS DEHSHAT intercepted the suspicious dhow and recovered a large cache of drugs valued approximately 6.7 million dollars in the international market.

The spokesperson said that the successful operation by the Pakistan Navy in the seizure of a huge quantity of narcotics is a testimony to the fact that Pakistan Navy remains combatted to fulfill national and international obligations and maintaining good order at sea. Pakistan Navy is vigilant to counter any illegal activity and safeguard its maritime borders.

The successful execution of the anti-narcotics operation is a demonstration of the Pakistan Navy's resolve to deter and disrupt illegal activities in the maritime zone of Pakistan, the PN spokesperson said.

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Will not bow before Imran’s dictation: PM Shehbaz Sharif

"If the PTI was merely concerned about the election, they should have come to the parliament."

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Islamabad: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif Thursday vowed not to bow before the dictations of ex-Prime Minister Imran Khan and made it clear that the National Assembly would, not anyone else, would decide the timing of the election.

“I want to make it clear to the head of this gang that none of his dictation will be accepted. This House will decide when to hold fair election,” the prime minister said addressing the National Assembly hours after Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan ended his long march here, giving the government a six-day deadline to announce a fresh election.

The prime minister said if the PTI was merely concerned about the election, they should have come to the parliament.

“Imran Niazi should not have any misunderstanding. There are 14 months (to complete the parliament’s term). We are open to talks. Dialogue is the trait of politicians. I can constitute a committee. But, if you think you will pressurize, blackmail or threaten us to leave the government, keep in mind, we will not bow before your pressure or dictation,” he reiterated.  

He accepted that the country was faced with numerous challenges but the coalition government would try its utmost to steer the country out of the issues it had inherited from the previous government.

Lamenting the riots and destruction caused by the participants of the PTI long march, the prime minister said the House should choose between the course of development or destruction.

Drawing a comparison between the economic growth of the two neighboring countries, he said in 1990s India copied Pakistan’s economic strategy and excelled with its IT exports touching $200 billion against $1.5 billion of Pakistan.

He said the protestors who also carried weapons to bring to the federal capital, also damaged infrastructure here and burnt down the trees despite the party claiming to be the champion of 10 Billion Tree Tsunami.

He also condemned the killing of a police constable in Lahore, sympathized with the grieved family and also announced an assistance package for the policemen who were martyred or injured in the line of their duty.

He said instead of showing some compassion to the widow or orphaned children of the martyred police constable, the PTI leader taunted him.

Calling it a 126-day theatre, the prime minister said the PTI’s sit-in in 2014 had not only impacted the national economy but also claimed the lives of the security personnel.

He told the House that the law enforcement agencies showed maximum restraint to control the situation only by using teargas or rubber bullet. The government also called in the army troops to aid the civilian setup, he added.

He also lauded the performance of the Islamabad Police, Rangers, FC, Islamabad Traffic Police and other departments concerned to protect the lives and properties of the people.

The prime minister said the PTI long march, which was led by Imran Khan from Peshawar and accompanied by KPK chief minister, was in fact an attack at the federation which could not be allowed in any civilized society.

The prime minister said after the nation sacrificed thousands of lives and left many others disabled, the slogan of jihad was raised in Peshawar by the PTI.

“Today, the slogans of jihad were raised in Peshawar. Jihad against whom? The nation needs an answer. They used the religion for personal gains which the House should condemn through a resolution to avert the recurrence of such incidents” he commented.

He said despite the dearth of resources, the previous government reduced the oil prices, leaving behind a “landmine” for the incumbent government.   

The prime minister said during the last three and half years, the PTI leadership did nothing to support the poor, closed PKLI, and ended free medical treatment of hepatitis patients.  

“Does it require any more evidence to believe that he is an enemy of Pakistan,” he remarked.

The prime minister also questioned the PTI leader as to why he announced a long march on May 25 despite knowing that it coincided with the sentencing of Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik by an Indian court.

He said the House was unanimous to condemn the sentence to Yasin Malik and shared the grief of his family, besides reiterating Pakistan’s stance to continue supporting the people of Kashmir for their right to self-determination.

He recalled the PTI’s sit-in of 2014 when the institutions including Pakistan Television was attacked and caused the postponement of Chinese President Xi Jinping which also delayed the signing of the China Pakistan Economic Corridor for seven months.

He said the Chinese firm executing Karot Hydropower project had agreed to provide free electricity to the national grid till the finalization of the Commercial Operations Date which would save Rs4 billion to the national kitty.

He said the previous government wasted three and half years in mere attacking the national institutions including the judiciary and hurling allegations ignoring the sufferings of the people.

“How long this drama will continue? How long this disturbed nation will tolerate it,” he questioned adding the country could not afford the history of the 2014 sit-in to be repeated.

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